By Kathy Hosler
It’s a rare groomer indeed who has never had to deal with fleas or ticks. For most of us, finding fleas and ticks on a client’s pet is an all too common occurrence. Unfortunately, many pet parents seem oblivious to the fact that their pets need protection from these nasty blood-sucking, disease-carrying creatures.
Some people think that if their pet has fleas or ticks – it’s no big deal – but they are wrong, maybe dead wrong. Fleas and ticks may carry diseases that can sicken or even cause death in both pets and humans. That’s one reason that more and more grooming establishments require that their client’s pets must be on flea and tick preventatives.
It seems like fleas have been around forever. Fossilized fleas have been found, so you know that they are pretty good at surviving – and at causing widespread devastation. In the 14th century, more than one fourth of the European population died of the ‘black plague’, a disease that was carried and spread by fleas. Epidemics have occurred in many other areas of the world since then, and it is estimated that the plague has killed more people than have died in all the wars in history.
Even today, a few cases of the Bubonic Plague occur every year in the United States. Another serious disease that is transmitted by fleas is Murine Typhus. Flea or tick bites can transmit the Bartonella parasite that can infect dogs, cats, humans, and rodents. It causes Cat Scratch Fever in humans.
Scratching pets are the source of a lot of headaches for groomers, especially if the owner denies that their pet could have fleas. Usually you can find fleas or flea dirt on the pet and that will confirm that fleas are the culprit – and the source of their itching.
Although it is not a disease, flea bite allergy dermatitis can cause a pet to experience intense itching, inflamed raw skin, and hair loss. Most groomers have had a flea bite or two and know just how painful and itchy even one bite can be. It’s easy to understand why pets infested with fleas can scratch, lick, and bite themselves non-stop.
In a pet that is truly allergic to flea bites, even a single flea bite may trigger intense and prolonged itching and biting, and yet – you may never see any evidence of the flea. Hot spots and lick granulomas can be the result of a pet’s constant licking and chewing.
Another parasite that can be transmitted by fleas is the tapeworm. This doesn’t happen by the flea biting the pet – but rather by the pet ingesting the flea when the pet is biting or licking itself. Pets that have tapeworms sometimes drag their bottoms. Dried tapeworm segments that resemble grains of rice may be found in the hair around the pet’s anus. Often fresh tapeworm segments can be observed crawling out of the anus. Heads up groomers… people can also get tapeworms!
If all of this information about the problems fleas can cause doesn’t scare you – here’s the lowdown on some of the things that ticks can transmit.
These gruesome pests can transmit disease causing bacteria, virus, parasitic worms, fungi, and protozoa. Toxins released by ticks can also cause tick paralysis.
Lyme Disease is one of the most frequently diagnosed and well-known tick-borne diseases in dogs.
Humans can also get Lyme Disease if they are bitten by an infected tick. It’s often identified by a ‘bull’s-eye’ rash that develops around the site of the bite.
Another tick-borne disease, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, is not confined to the Rocky Mountain region. It has been found in almost all of the continental United States.
Anaplasmosis, Ehrichiosis, Babesiosis, and also Meningoencephalitis are potentially serious diseases that can be acquired by the bite of a tick. Dogs can be infected with Canine Hepatozoonosis if they ingest an infected tick.
Impress on your clients the importance of carefully inspecting their pets for ticks daily. When you find a tick on a pet (or human) quick and proper tick removal is very important. Use a tool made specifically for removing ticks. If one is not available, a pair of tweezers will work. Grasp the tick where it is attached to the skin, then carefully pull it out. Make sure that you have extracted the entire tick, then cleanse the site. Do not use a hot match, fingernail polish, or alcohol as a method of removal. Do not crush the tick, place it in a sealed bag and then put it in the trash.
Who could imagine that something so small as a flea or a tick could cause so much death and destruction? And, did you ever think that your health and life could be in jeopardy because of these nasty creatures?
If you haven’t already done so, it’s time for you to educate your clients about how dangerous fleas and ticks can be. Most of them will be astounded to learn about all of the diseases that can be transmitted to pets and to their family. Provide them with handouts like the Barkleigh Pet Series brochures, GroomOGrams, or even make your own client newsletter. Display a poster about the importance of flea and tick prevention. And, even though you are not a veterinarian, you could highlight a ‘disease of the month’ under the poster to reinforce the seriousness of these parasitic creatures. Stock your retail area with a full line of tick and flea products and preventatives. Make sure that you have products that effectively treat the pets, home, and outdoor premises. Not every flea or tick that bites a pet or human will infect them with a disease – but even one bite is one too many. Don’t risk it! ✂